Leave of Absence from the USA

International students who will take a leave of absence from UC San Diego for one or more quarters are required to obtain permission from the International Students & Programs Office (ISPO) prior to their proposed leave. This permission from ISPO is called a “Leave of Absence from the USA.” 

Failure to report a leave or failure to be physically outside of the USA during your leave will have a negative impact on your immigration status.

View most recent Leave of Absence from the U.S. webinar recording here!


What is a Leave of Absence from the USA?

International students in F-1 or J-1 status are required to be enrolled in at least 12 units every quarter at UC San Diego. If you do not plan to be enrolled at all for a quarter or more during your program at UC San Diego, you must apply for a leave of absence with ISPO, and do one of the following depending on your educational level:

PLEASE NOTE: International students on approved withdrawal/leaves of absence must be physically OUTSIDE of the USA for the duration of their withdrawal/leave. While on withdrawal/leave status, a student may not be employed by UCSD, UCSD Extension, or UCSD Medical Center or hold a fellowship, traineeship, or similar appointment administered by the University. Students may not use any University facilities or place demands on faculty.

Application Requirements

Application process:

  • Meet with an international student advisor during ISPO walk-in hours prior to your proposed leave.
  • Meet with your college or department advisor to discuss the impact of your proposed leave on your program of study
  • Submit the Leave of Absence from the USA Form to ISPO by email or at the ISPO front desk.
  • Submit a copy of airline ticket or flight itinerary showing planned departure date together with your Leave of Absence from the USA Form in order to document your leave of absence and departure from the USA
  • Depart the USA within 15 days of submitting the Leave of Absence from the USA Form or before the start of the next quarter (whichever is sooner).


Effects of a leave of absence on your visa status:

  • After you leave the USA, your SEVIS record will be Terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal.
  • Upon termination of your SEVIS record, all F-1/J-1 benefits, such as travel and employment cease immediately.
  • SEVIS records of dependents sponsored under your visa will also be terminated. Dependents in this situation are not allowed to remain in the USA.
  • If you have not already left when your SEVIS record is terminated, you must leave within 15 days of the termination date. If you do not leave the USA within the stated time, you will be out of status and in the country without authorization.

Returning from Leave of Absence from the USA

Requirements to return from a leave of absence:

Procedures to request your I-20 for your return from a leave of absence are different depending on if your absence from the USA is more than 5 months or less than 5 months (the 5 months are calculated from the date you depart the US to the program start date of the quarter you intend to return for). To learn more about this process, please click on the link below:


Important notes for F-1 students:

  • If you take a leave of absence for more than 5 months, you must be enrolled for one full academic year upon your return to be eligible for F-1 Curricular Practical Training or F-1 Optional Practical Training.
  • For leave of absences of less than 5 months, we recommend submitting the reactivation request to ISPO as early as possible, which is 60 days prior to the quarter start date of your returning term. SEVIS will make the determination to approve or deny the reactivation request
  • If you take a leave of absence for less than 5 months, you will not be eligible to reactivate your SEVIS record, if you enter the USA in a status other than F-1. Instead, you would need to request a new SEVIS record and I-20.
  • You must remain outside the USA for the duration of your leave. For leave of absence of less than 5 months, entry back into the USA during your term of leave may result in a denial of your reactivation request.